“You’re going to be an exchange student!” I was seventeen and thrilled to hear I was approved to study in Germany. But it was only three months before my departure, and I had never taken a class in German.
The days that followed found me cramming—studying for hours and even writing words on my hands to memorize them.
Months later I was in a classroom in Germany, discouraged because I didn’t know more of the language. That day a teacher gave me wise advice. “Learning a language is like climbing a sand dune. Sometimes you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. But just keep going and you will.”
Sometimes I reflect on that insight when I consider what it means to grow as a follower of Jesus. The apostle Paul recalled, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” Even for Paul, personal peace didn’t happen overnight. It was something he grew into. Paul shares the secret of his progress: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12–13).
Life has its challenges. But as we turn to the One who has “overcome the world” (John 16:33), we discover not only that He’s faithful to get us through but also that nothing matters more than closeness to Him. He gives us His peace, helps us to trust, and empowers us to go the distance as we walk with Him.
In what ways will you focus on Jesus today? How can you encourage others to draw near to Him?
In Philippians 4:7–19, Paul describes a paradox. On the one hand, he lived each day with peace and a sense of having “enough,” confident that God would give exactly what was needed (v. 11). On the other hand, Paul describes believers’ complete dependence on God and others and urges them to honestly name and prayerfully lift up their needs (vv. 7, 9, 19). The apostle also alludes to a further paradox: despite having all we need in God, His abundance and peace is best experienced in community, with fellow believers who share in each other’s joy and sorrows. Despite maintaining that he was not “in need” (v. 11), Paul was profoundly grateful for other believers’ willingness to share in his struggles (vv. 10, 14). Elsewhere he elaborates on these ideas by describing the believing community as an interdependent body where each person is needed (1 Corinthians 12:12–27).